Landmark Objects

Landmark Objects

Each of these large, iconic artifacts highlights key themes of the exhibitions in that wing.

Civil War Draft Wheel, Third Floor East

This landmark object -- the Civil War Draft Wheel -- identifies the American wars and politics wing of the museum.

As part of the Armed Forces collections at the National Museum of American History, the Draft Wheel is an object that demonstrates the very beginning of conscription in the United States. It functioned as part of a procedure to select men for military service. The names of men eligible for the draft were written on slips of paper and dropped into holes inside the wheel. An official pulled out names to fill the ranks of the Union army.

Disneyland's Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Third Floor West
This object is currently off-view during the West Wing renovations

This landmark object -- Disneyland's Dumbo the Flying Elephant -- identifies the entertainment, sports, and music wing of the museum.

On view is one of the elephants from the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride from the original Disneyland theme park in Los Angeles, California.

George Washington Sculpture, Second Floor West
This object is currently off-view during the West Wing renovations

This landmark object -- the George Washington Sculpture -- identifies the American lives wing of the museum.

On view is the marble statue of George Washington commissioned by Congress in 1832 to commemorate the centennial of our first president's birth. The artist, Horatio Greenough, modeled his figure of Washington on a classical Greek statue of Zeus, but the semi-clothed statue attracted controversy and criticism as soon as it arrived in the city in 1841. In 1908, Congress transferred the statue to the Smithsonian, where it went on view in the Castle. Then in 1964, it was moved to the museum for its opening.

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Second floor east

This landmark object -- the Greensboro Lunch Counter -- identifies the American ideals wing of the museum.

This section of the Woolworth's lunch counter with 4 stools from Greensboro, North Carolina, represents the February 1, 1960 sit-in that challenged segregated eating places.  On February 1, 1960, four African American students -- Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond -- sat down at this counter and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. They were all enrolled at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. Their "passive sit-down demand" began one of the first sustained sit-ins and ignited a youth-led movement to challenge injustice and racial inequality throughout the South.

John Bull Locomotive, First Floor East

This landmark object -- the John Bull Locomotive -- identifies the transportation and technology wing of the museum.

On view is the steam locomotive John Bull and a section of the first iron railroad bridge in America.

The steam locomotive John Bull was built in 1831 and ran for 35 years, pulling trains of passengers and cargo between the two largest cities of the time, Philadelphia and New York. The locomotive propelled trains at 25 to 30 miles per hour. The John Bull, which was ordered from England by Robert Stevens for his railroad company, was named after the mythical gentleman who symbolized England. It was assembled by Isaac Dripps, a young steamboat mechanic who had never seen a locomotive before.

Vassar Telescope, First Floor West
This object is currently off-view during the West Wing renovations

This landmark object -- the Vassar Telescope -- identifies the science and innovation wing of the museum.

On view is the telescope used by Maria Mitchell (1818-1889), the first professional woman astronomer in the United States. She gained recognition in scientific circles through establishing the orbit of a new comet in 1847. The following year, she became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and from 1865 to 1888 she served as professor of astronomy at Vassar Female College. In 1963, the president of Vassar donated Mitchell's astronomical telescope, built by Henry Fitz, to the Smithsonian.